Buying Bibles

If you, like me, are a fan of the ESV then there are two websites that you should know about. Together they are the two least expensive places to buy any ESV bible you can think of. Often, they’re significantly less expensive.

The first is evangelicalbible.com. Right now in addition to having great prices, they’re offering free shipping on pre-orders of the ESV Study Bible. Speaking of which, it was pointed out to me after my last post on the ESV Study Bible that the cover art I have such an issue with is just a dust jacket. Whah-lah, problem solved. So I ordered a copy and plan on taking the cover off.

Evangelicalbible.com also happens to be the exclusive US distributor of RL Allan bibles, which are the highest quality bibles currently available anywhere. So if you’re looking to drop some serious cash on a bible of surpassing quality with highland goatskin leather cover, an RL Allan will give you goosebumps.

Check out this nifty graphic from the evangelicalbible.com site:


The other site to know about as they sometimes give evangelicalbible.com a run for their money in terms of having the best price is the Westminster Bookstore. Right now, for example, the single-column, Personal Size Reference Edition (which I highly recommend, by the way), TruTone cover, is $17.99 at Westminster Bookstore and evangelicalbible.com is asking $18.89 for the same edition. However, you may be able to get free shipping from evangelicalbible, so look around carefully at the deals they are currently running.

Something Real

In a 2005 article about Jonny Cash, Russel D. Moore said something I really like:

Perhaps if Christian churches modeled themselves more after Johnny Cash, and less after perky Christian celebrities… we might find ourselves resonating more with the MTV generation. Maybe if we stopped trying to be “cool,” and stopped hiring youth ministers who are little more than goateed game-show hosts, we might find a way to connect with a generation that understands pain and death more than we think.

People from 12 to 35 are aching for reality. Hollywood proffers reality TV, which only highlights the desperate situation we’re in. But inside, people are dying (often literally) for something true, something serious, something worth holding on to, worth living for.

Too often the version of the “Gospel” that we talk about is to the Gospel of the Bible what grape Kool-Aid is to a robust Cabernet Sauvignon. It goes down sweet, but there’s no sustenance. Whereas Cabernet can be an acquired taste, but it provides heart-strengthening polyphenols. Sure, it can also send you reeling into walls, but so can the Gospel.

I want to encounter the Gospel in all of its life-altering potential. Otherwise, what is the point?

The Way of Salvation

Well. I began reading a new book a few days ago titled, The Way of Salvation: The Role of Christian Obedience in Justification, by Paul A. Rainbow and published in 2005 by Paternoster Press. (By the way, these guys are publishing some seriously interesting books! There’s another book coming down the pike from them that is a review of the wide spectrum of Messianic theology–I can’t wait to read that.)

Anyway, Dr. Rainbow is a man of significant intestinal fortitude, because he is daring to challenge an idea (sola fide) that has been cherished for centuries. In fact, not just cherished, but waved as the primal evidence of Protestant orthodoxy.

Read his description of his core idea:

“My thesis in a nutshell is that, though the Reformers had Paul on their side in decrying merit before conversion and rightly emphasized that God freely imputes Christ’s righteousness to a believing sinner apart from prior moral efforts, nevertheless they were wrong to exclude ‘evangelical obedience’ (as the Puritans called deeds produced by divine grace in the lives of the redeemed) from having a secondary role in the way of salvation which we tread thereafter. Paul and James alike point to good works as the pathway to God’s approval at the last judgment, and they consider this future moment an integral part of justification itself. For persons to be justified in the full sense, God’s present imputation of righteousness to those who are incorporate in Christ by faith must be legitimized in the end by his approbation of an actual righteousness which he brings about in them during the meantime. While faith is the ultimate condition for both events, deeds are proximately conditional in their own right for the culminating event. My understanding of the grammar and of the implied metaphysics of Scripture requires me to engage sharply with the Reformers over the issue of how Christian obedience relates to justification in eschatalogical perspective. Sola fide is true when it describes how we first enter into a new standing with God, but it oversimplifies the nature of the Christian journey into the coming age, with potentially disastrous effects.” (xvi)

“A fresh look at the doctrine of sola fide is needed for at least three further reasons. Its method violates the rule of the scriptural canon. In substance, stress on faith alone severs justification too cleanly from sanctification. And with regard to its effects in history, the doctrine is dangerous. Since the 1520s, it has proven powerless to check repeated outbreaks of antinomianism (opposition to the teaching of moral law) in churches indebted to the Reformation, resulting in large fringes of congregants today imbued with the heresy that without mortifying sins they can nevertheless rest assured of reaching heaven.” (xvii)

It’s too early for me to be able to evaluate whether I think his over all analysis is correct or not. However, his reading of the effects of antinomianism is dead on. I’m looking forward to finishing this book.

Denominational (and other) Posturing

Charles Simeon was neither an Arminian nor a Calvinist but described himself as “a moderate Calvinist” or “a Bible Christian.” I would have called him a “Calviminian.” Some consider Charles Simeon the father of Anglican evangelicalism. He was born in 1759 and died in 1836. Appointed vicar of Holy Trinity Cambridge at age 23, he also became a fellow of King’s College, Cambridge.

You can read more about Charles Simeon in a biography written by H.C.G. Moule, himself an Anglican of repute, at googlebooks .

A dialogue recorded between Simeon and well-known Arminian John Wesley struck me yesterday.

[Simeon:] Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions. Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?

[Wesley:] Yes, I do indeed.

[S:] And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?

[W:] Yes, solely through Christ.

[S:] But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?

[W:] No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.

[S:] Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?

[W:] No.

[S:] What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother’s arms?

[W:] Yes, altogether.

[S:] And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?

[W:] Yes, I have no hope but in Him.

[S:] Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election, my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things wherein we agree. (from Charles Simeon: Biography of a Sane Saint)

We would do well to likewise find common ground rather than entrenching ourselves in foxholes of peripheral issues.

I should also mention that the 21-volume lifework by Simeon titled Horae Homileticae is available at a fraction of the cost you would pay for the hard copy edition–that is if you can even find it–over at Logos.com.

Defeating Strongholds

I recently wrote to a dear friend:

I’m convinced that victory over besetting sin is secured by a pattern of small, seemingly unrelated, ostensibly insignificant decisions, which add up to a life-style of holiness. Make the right decision repeatedly, at any moment, on sundry topics…and it becomes a force of habit more powerful (and more nurtured) than the force of selfish lust.

So help us, God.

I’m sitting in the audience of my own sermon feeling the conviction too!

The Present Role of the Law (Torah)

Even the Apostle Peter said that St. Paul’s writings were difficult to understand, and throughout history Christian men (and women) have often found them difficult to align congruently with the rest of Scripture.

In the past 150 years it has become fashionable to act—and even believe—that the Law was done away with by Messiah’s sacrifice. In a certain and specific sense that is true; but the way in which it has commonly come to be understood is blatantly and grievously erroneous.

Dispensationalism was largely responsible for spreading this unfortunate idea; an idea that is in many ways responsible for the present deplorable state of Christian morals in America (see Barna’s recent report). What I find so astounding, however, is the degree to which the dispensational approach to Paul’s writings have so profoundly influenced those who would vigorously protest any suggestion that they are dispensationalists.

But more to the point, or at least to my point, is this assertion: it has been the predominant, historic, and orthodox Christian belief that every believer is beholden to keep God’s commandments as they exist in both the Old and New Testaments.  Attempts to figure out how to walk out that obligation vary widely, and I have my own opinion. The point, however, is that varying applications aside, we must agree that, as Article 7 of the Articles of Religion state:

…no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.

Granted, that begs the question, “Which commandments are moral?” But I leave that for another discussion.

Allow me, finally, to arrive at the quote which I originally set out to blog upon.

The following was written between 1832 and 1863 by Charles Simeon, the father of Anglican evangelicals, fellow of King’s College, Cambridge, and vicar of Holy Trinity Cambridge.

He begins with stating the objection urged against the Gospel; “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” And then he answers it at large; and affirms, that the covenant of grace, so far from invalidating our obligation to good works, absolutely secures the performance of thema….[1]

[Christ, our incarnate Lord, has fulfilled every part of God’s law; enduring its penalties, as well as executing its commands: and this he has done, as our Surety: so that, if we believe in him, we may plead his obedience unto death in bar of all the punishment it denounces against us; and may even plead it also as having procured for us a title to all its promised blessings. Our blessed Lord, in fulfilling the law, has abrogated it as a covenant; and has obtained for us a new and better covenant, of which he himself is the Suretyb. As a rule of conduct, the law does, and ever must, continue in force; because it is the transcript of the mind and will of God, and contains a perfect rule for the conduct of his creaturesc: but as a, covenant it is dissolved; and is, in respect of us, dead; so that we have no more connexion with it than a woman has with her deceased husband: our obligations to it, and our expectations from it, have ceased for everd.[2]


a Rom. 6:14–16.

[1]Charles Simeon, Horae Homileticae Vol. 15: Romans(London, 1832-63). 165.

b Heb. 8:6, 8, 13.

c 1 Cor. 9:21.

d Gal. 2:19.

[2]Charles Simeon, Horae Homileticae Vol. 15: Romans (London, 1832-63). 166.

Formation through Flesh

A previous post and some comments on it led me to think of an essay by Dallas Willard in his book The Great Omission, titled “The Spirit is Willing, But… The Body as a Tool for Spiritual Growth” (pgs 80-90).  I believe some quotes from it are in order.

Willard first sets some background parameters:

This process of “conformation to Christ,” as we might more appropriately call it, is constantly supported by grace and otherwise would be impossible. But it is not therefore passive. Grace is opposed to earning, not to effort. In fact, nothing inspires and enhances effort like the experience of grace.

With that established he warns:

Yet it is today necessary to assert boldly and often that becoming Christ-like never occurs without intense and well-informed action on our part.

Lest we become overly individualistic and myopically focused on only ourselves, Willard reminds:

This in turn cannot be reliably sustained outside of a like-minded fellowship.

Conscious of today’s great lack, Willard reports

Probably the least understood aspect of progress in Christ-likeness is the role of the body in the spiritual life.

Almost all of us are acutely aware of how the incessant clamorings of our bodies defeat our intentions to “be spiritual.” The Apostle Paul explains that “what the flesh desired is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh;” (Galatians 5:17).

Contrary to what many of us experience the truth is that:

…if the body is simply beyond redemption, then ordinary life is too.

And we, with Jesus, Paul & Dallas Willard, maintain vociferously that nothing in life is beyond redemption.